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Data recovery: The option of last resort (Part 2 of 3)

Robert Palmer

Back to Part I of Robert's tale of data recovery. It's a typical geek story: Boy gets data, boy loses data, boy tries to get data back.

Because of my former employer's professional relationship with Iomega, I had sent a disk for recovery to Iomega Data Recovery before, and was confident they'd be able to recover the data. I went to their website, and started a quote.

It's worth mentioning that there are many other services besides Iomega Data Recovery that do excellent work. DriveSavers, for example, had a booth at Macworld where people could walk up, physically damage a disk by scratching it, and -- behold! -- they still could recover the data before your eyes. Other services are available from Total Access, as well as from local technicians who can come to your location.

Starting the quote began with asking for my contact information, along with details about the drive. I tried to be as explicit as possible about how the drive was connected, to see if they would be able to isolate the logical failure that happened on the disk, and recover the data accordingly. They also had an area where you could specify specific files or file types to target for recovery.

Submitting the quote generates a document to print include in the box when you send it to them, and tips for packing the drive securely. I wrapped the drive in foam, put it in a snug-fitting box, and sent it to their lab in Santa Clara, California.

Then, the waiting started.

A technician, the supremely helpful and consummate professional Greg Sabanis, emailed me five days later (there was a weekend in there, if I recall correctly) with an analysis of the damaged drive. He said:

The drive has read errors affecting structures and possibly data files. Based upon this evaluation, we feel that a recovery may be possible. We will have to attempt to manually rebuild the corrupted / invalid file system components, mount the recovered volume(s) and finally determine if some / all of the data you require is intact.

That was something of a relief. Then came the sticker shock: The recovery would cost $1,500, plus tax. The good news (I suppose) was that I didn't have to pay it now: I could see the results of their recovery first, and then determine if it was worth it to spend the money for what they recovered. If Greg couldn't recover any data off the disk, there would be no charge.

Speaking with friends, it's clear that Iomega Data Recovery is average in terms of cost for the size of the disk I sent them. Lower-capacity disks, flash media and removable storage costs less. One thing's for sure: they have you by the huevos, and they're gonna charge you for it.

With client work on that drive, the nascent reputation of my freelance business was on the line. I had no choice but to spend the money. So, I signed their evaluation, faxed it back, and hoped for the best.

Part III: The thrilling conclusion.

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